Review: Ms. Splosion Man

“I’m just a girl. I’m just a girl in the world.”

Some of us believe in the examined life—a life of being consciously aware of ourselves in the world. We think deeply about the media we consume, the relationships we maintain, and the choices we make. We find our choices limited to pleasures that we deem deserving, based on whatever rubric we have created for ourselves. When we venture outside of that rubric, we call those pleasures “guilty.”

Admit it: sometimes you just want to let it all go. You want to turn up the Top 40 station and sing along with Ke$ha, watch a movie with a happy ending, rant selfishly to a friend, or watch a two-hour block of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Sometimes it goes further than that. You want to ask a girl out when rejection is inevitable. You want to post a careless remark on Facebook. You want to punch a guy in the face. You want to jump off of a cliff just to see what will happen.

But most of us know better than to spontaneously act on these signals. We receive them, consider them, and rein them in. Most of our instincts are ultimately rejected or compromised. Sometimes it can be painful to think about how so many of our desires are swept under the rug, never to be considered seriously. But we have to be smart about these things.

“Just dance. It’ll be okay.”

People talk with relish about games that make you “feel smart.” These force you to stop and think hard about a solution, the implications of different gameplay mechanics, and even various themes included within the narrative. Ms. Splosion Man is not one of those games. Rather than tasking the player with cerebral puzzles that require an analytical perspective, Ms. Splosion Man encourages you to indulge in impulse.

The sequel to ’Splosion Man, Ms. Splosion Man focuses all of its kinetic energy into perfecting the first game’s established gameplay. You will control an explosive being, able only to walk around and “splode,” which serves as both a jump and a way to cause general mayhem until the end of the level.

That moment will fly by without your having ever realized what was truly happening, but you will have experienced and taken part in it nonetheless, and it will be glorious to you. It will be a feeling you rarely experience outside of a videogame.

Sure, you could choose your steps carefully. You could do that, but you wouldn’t want to. When all pretenses are abandoned and the game becomes a constant zigzag shift to the right, Ms. Splosion Man provides a true and sustained sense of satisfaction. It may seem like simply going for it would never work, but the game does everything it can to help you along.

It is, after all, a universe that was created for your careless bumbling. Scientists are placed serendipitously so that your bloodlust (or is it just lust; is there a difference?) causes you to simultaneously blow them to pieces and catapult yourself to the next unforeseen platform. Glowing green barrels float, drop, or fly directly into your path at just the nick of time. They look attractive and incendiary, their propulsive results so irresistible that you can’t help but explode in their midst, even if that gets you nowhere.

It doesn’t end there: nearly every possible action in this game feels like joyous play, loaded with surprising results. The game is not exactly consistent; as you move through different circumstances, you’ll be impressed with how often your limited actions result in new and unexpected outcomes. These spontaneous combustions trigger daring escapes, unintended destruction, and spontaneously solved puzzles.

Ms. Splosion Man adds so many new mechanics and elements to an already crowded game that it becomes almost impossible to keep them straight. Thankfully, the purpose of these additions is almost universally to propel the player forward with increasing regularity. Trampolines, flying space-cars, and catapults are welcome sights, signifying the start of a chain reaction that will leave you captivated until the next checkpoint.

“You complete me.”

Inevitably, you will get stuck. Those moments will be lengthy, maddening, and utterly tricky. You will wonder at them, seeing exactly what you are supposed to do. You will simply be unable. You will call the game “stupid” and “too hard.” You will say it doesn’t know its own strengths. You will analyze that trouble spot, if only to critique it.

But eventually you’ll remember to submit yourself to carelessness, throwing yourself haphazardly into the game’s forces and allowing yourself to be tossed to and fro. You’ll press the buttons when you know to press them, you’ll fly upward, you’ll obey the signals; and before you know it, it will all be over. That moment will fly by without your having ever realized what was truly happening, but you will have experienced and taken part in it nonetheless, and it will be glorious to you. It will be a feeling you rarely experience outside of a videogame.

“You had me at hello.”

Oh, to live the life of Ms. Splosion Man. She was an accident of the worst kind: unexpected, unwanted, reviled. She had it harder than ’Splosion Man because the second they laid eyes on her they knew what she was, and they hated her. They wanted to destroy her, but she wasn’t capable of caring. Instead, she ran toward them, desperate for companionship, for embrace. She thrilled at how cute she found them. She sang all of their favorite songs and quoted all of their favorite movies without irony. She meant every single word.

But I’m probably over-thinking it. After all, girls just want to have fun.